Young Adult Lit/Crit

March 5, 2008

Author Study

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — katefrazer @ 9:55 pm

Raph, Josh, and I focused on voice in our author study.  Our overall focus was for students to recognize Chris Crutcher’s voice and use this to help develop their own voice in their writing.  While reading Crutcher’s books the kids would be analyzing just what his voice is, how it is different from other authors, and thinking about the topics he writes about and how he mixes humor with serious topics. 

After looking at all of this, the plan is for the kids to be thinking about what stories they want to tell and how they can best do this.  Then they would go ahead and write their stories.  Voice is a tough concept and using an author study to focus on this would hopefully help kids take steps towards finding and refining theirs. 

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1 Comment »

  1. I’m esp. interested since there’s been a discussion of voice in YA on the listserv for some time. I’ll share a bit of it here-how would you problematize voice, complicate it? TEACH it? What would you say about Crutcher’s voice for ex??? Yes, voice is a “tough concept” but our job is to help students understand it. I know your group worked on that important focus and you can help us all think more about it. KES

    1. Voice has always been a hallmark of young adult literature, and I
    think there is some pretty fierce competition in the field to
    differentiate the first person narrative voice, which many people
    (annoyingly) view as the default narrative of young adult literature.

    2. Good vs. Fresh. While THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME
    INDIAN by Sherman Alexie and SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU
    by Peter Cameron are among the very best narrative voices of the
    year, they are both reminiscent of classic young adult narrative
    voices. Do we love them for their own merits (I believe that we do)
    or do we love them because they remind us of these other narrative
    voices (I believe this, too). I just finished THE PENDERWICKS ON
    GARDAM STREET and I think you could ask similar questions here, too.
    We love the book on its own merits, but we also love returning to the
    comfort zone of the classic books that it references. (Side note:
    this point is irrelevant to Printz criteria as only books from 2007
    are discussed.)

    3. Several years ago, it seemed like a version of a WHOSE LINE IS IT
    ANYWAY game. You know, the one where you have to guess which strange
    condition each party guest has . . . Doesn’t use conjugated verbs,
    Talks in italics and capitals letters, Speaks in ebonics. I’m think
    particularly of books like Karen Hesse’s WITNESS, Kevin Brooks’s
    KISSING THE RAIN, and Han Nolan’s BORN BLUE. I’m sure there are
    others, and I’m sure authors continue to use a variation on this
    strategy to differentiate voice, but I’ve noticed an even newer trend
    gradually emerge.

    3. First person present tense. I don’t read enough adult literary
    fiction to justify this opinion, but I do wonder if we’ve aped them
    in this regard. My last recent reading post featured four books
    written in present tense: MADAPPLE, THE BROTHERS TORRES, EXODUS, and
    THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX. The book I am currently reading, THE
    HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, is also written in present tense.
    There are a few authors who can pull this off well (A ROOM ON LORELEI
    STREET is a great example of first person, THE LIGHTKEEPER’S DAUGHTER
    a great one of third person), but to my mind, this is a very self-
    conscious literary styling that too often calls attention to itself
    in all the wrong ways.

    4. If you want a way to differentiate yourself from the competition,
    here’s which narrative voice you should use: ominiscient third
    person. Gwenda Bond, on her blog Shaken & Stirred, recently asked
    for realistic YA novels written by American authors in the past
    twenty years. She didn’t get any good responses. The last truly
    great American novel I can think of is Ellen Raskin’s WESTING GAME.
    I’m sure there are others, but we just couldn’t think of them at the
    moment.

    5. Now non-American authors don’t seem to have this problem. In
    fact, two of the Printz winners, ONE WHOLE AND PERFECT DAY and
    DREAMQUAKE, have an omniscient narration. THE BOOK THIEF has an
    omniscient narrator disguised as first person (and REPOSSESSED has a
    first person narrator with omniscient prior knowledge, but that’s as
    close as I get to omniscient narration in recent American YA fiction).

    6. Come to think of it, voice was very interesting in all of the
    Printz winners this past year: THE WHITE DARKNESS (Linda mentioned
    the overabundance of metaphors and simile, something present to a
    lesser degree in so many first person voices, but surely not any less
    distracting than first person narrators who can recite dialogue
    precisely from memory–to be sure, first person *always* requires a
    willing suspension of disbelief), ONE WHOLE AND PERFECT DAY,
    DREAMQUAKE, REPOSSESSED, and YOUR OWN, SYLVIA. Hmmm, maybe an
    article in here somewhere . . .

    7. A contrast in styles. Do you use the period language to capture the
    flavor of the time as M.T. Anderson does in OCTAVIAN NOTHING, or do you
    interpret the texture of the period language into modern usage as Kevin
    Crossley-Holland does in CROSSING TO PARADISE?

    Comment by sunyprof — March 6, 2008 @ 8:31 am


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